Don’t Hate Mondays, Hate Your Lifestyle. Or change your mindset.
There’s a saying that is sometimes attributed to Karl Marx or Slavoj Zizek——that tidily sums up the existential angst many people feel at the start of a traditional work week:
"You don’t hate Mondays. You hate capitalism."
There is that there’s nothing intrinsic to “Monday,” which is just a word we’ve invented to delineate every seventh day, that makes your average 9-5 worker miserable.
It is just a day like any other.
The despair comes may have something to do with your lifestyle and the common routines many of us share. This invests “Monday” with meaning—this is the day you return to your "routine". For many it is the cycle of repetitive, unsatisfying labor that fills you with loathing and anxiety. This is the thing you should should change.
“Monday” is just a label. Its just a word; a meaningless symbol— nothing more than a day of the week. You may as well get mad at a rock. Perhaps better then to evaluate how and what goes into your work / life balance and look for ways, if possible to make changes to your lifestyle.
Monday symbolizes the end of the weekend and the start of a new week. So it symbolizes the day when the fun stops, and the obligations begin. For most people it represents the beginning of the working week. It symbolizes something undesirable and unmotivating.
But, Do you really hate Mondays? No, you don’t. (If you do, you don't have to - remember, its in YOUR mind, you are in control).
Mondays can be truly wonderful days. Just because people think Mondays are bad days, it doesn’t necessarily have to mean that you have to irradiate pessimism at the beginning of the week.
So, there are two reasons why you might hate Mondays:
You’ve become a part of the global view that Mondays are bad days
You’re not living a life that would allow you to enjoy your Monday
How to Make Mondays Great, or at least Better?
In order to stop seeing Monday as a bad day, you need to fix your way of thinking. First and foremost, you have to start creating your own attitudes about your life, and the people who surround you. Look at your routine. What can you do different? Is it the overwhelming barrage of emails? Give it a time slot, answer them and move on. Are you over scheduled? Learn to start saying no to some things.
Change Your Mind About Mondays
While the rest of the world is convinced that Monday is a bad day, you can be different. It is a mindset really. Every individual is unique and has something to offer the world. Don’t be afraid of being different. You’re nothing else but what your brain thinks you are. When you succeed in creating a positive image of Mondays in your head, that day will become positive, and full of great opportunities in your eyes.
If it is a return to some tedious tasks, find a way to look at or find positive aspects. If there are a couple of specific things that really get you down find a way to change or eliminate those. Maybe one or 2 small things are affecting your mood about every other aspect of Mondays.
Someone once suggested plan a good meal or a treat for Monday dinner - that seems like a good little simple idea.
If its work related, find something rewarding to either start or complete on Mondays. Something that can bring you satisfaction.
Successful people tend to use every day for making agreements, opening new businesses, or enjoying life. Why should you restrict yourself by throwing out your Mondays? It doesn’t matter what day it is; you can start a business on Monday, Tuesday, Saturday or any other day of the week.
Don’t use days of the week as an excuse. Every day is a new chance for you to make changes, become a better person, don’t miss out on that. Time is our most valuable resource, so you have to spend it wisely.
Change Your Lifestyle.
Marc and Angel are the authors of 1000 Little Things Happy Successful People Do Differently. Here’s their amazing list of 30 things to start doing for yourself.
#1. Start spending time with the right people. – These are the people you enjoy, who love and appreciate you, and who encourage you to improve in healthy and exciting ways. They are the ones who make you feel more alive, and not only embrace who you are now, but also embrace and embody who you want to be, unconditionally.
#2. Start facing your problems head on. – It isn’t your problems that define you, but how you react to them and recover from them. Problems will not disappear unless you take action. Do what you can, when you can, and acknowledge what you’ve done. It’s all about taking baby steps in the right direction, inch by inch. These inches count, they add up to yards and miles in the long run.
#3. Start being honest with yourself about everything. – Be honest about what’s right, as well as what needs to be changed. Be honest about what you want to achieve and who you want to become. Be honest with every aspect of your life, always. Because you are the one person you can forever count on. Search your soul, for the truth, so that you truly know who you are. Once you do, you’ll have a better understanding of where you are now and how you got here, and you’ll be better equipped to identify where you want to go and how to get there. Read The Road Less Traveled.
#4. Start making your own happiness a priority. – Your needs matter. If you don’t value yourself, look out for yourself, and stick up for yourself, you’re sabotaging yourself. Remember, it IS possible to take care of your own needs while simultaneously caring for those around you. And once your needs are met, you will likely be far more capable of helping those who need you most.
#5. Start being yourself, genuinely and proudly. – Trying to be anyone else is a waste of the person you are. Be yourself. Embrace that individual inside you that has ideas, strengths and beauty like no one else. Be the person you know yourself to be – the best version of you – on your terms. Above all, be true to YOU, and if you cannot put your heart in it, take yourself out of it.
#6. Start noticing and living in the present. – Right now is a miracle. Right now is the only moment guaranteed to you. Right now is life. So stop thinking about how great things will be in the future. Stop dwelling on what did or didn’t happen in the past. Learn to be in the ‘here and now’ and experience life as it’s happening. Appreciate the world for the beauty that it holds, right now.
#7. Start valuing the lessons your mistakes teach you. – Mistakes are okay; they’re the stepping stones of progress. If you’re not failing from time to time, you’re not trying hard enough and you’re not learning. Take risks, stumble, fall, and then get up and try again. Appreciate that you are pushing yourself, learning, growing and improving. Significant achievements are almost invariably realized at the end of a long road of failures. One of the ‘mistakes’ you fear might just be the link to your greatest achievement yet.
#8. Start being more polite to yourself. – If you had a friend who spoke to you in the same way that you sometimes speak to yourself, how long would you allow that person to be your friend? The way you treat yourself sets the standard for others. You must love who you are or no one else will.
#9. Start enjoying the things you already have. – The problem with many of us is that we think we’ll be happy when we reach a certain level in life – a level we see others operating at – your boss with her corner office, that friend of a friend who owns a mansion on the beach, etc. Unfortunately, it takes awhile before you get there, and when you get there you’ll likely have a new destination in mind. You’ll end up spending your whole life working toward something new without ever stopping to enjoy the things you have now. So take a quiet moment every morning when you first awake to appreciate where you are and what you already have.
#10. Start creating your own happiness. – If you are waiting for someone else to make you happy, you’re missing out. Smile because you can. Choose happiness. Be the change you want to see in the world. Be happy with who you are now, and let your positivity inspire your journey into tomorrow. Happiness is often found when and where you decide to seek it. If you look for happiness within the opportunities you have, you will eventually find it. But if you constantly look for something else, unfortunately, you’ll find that too. Read Stumbling on Happiness.
#11. Start giving your ideas and dreams a chance. – In life, it’s rarely about getting a chance; it’s about taking a chance. You’ll never be 100% sure it will work, but you can always be 100% sure doing nothing won’t work. Most of the time you just have to go for it! And no matter how it turns out, it always ends up just the way it should be. Either you succeed or you learn something. Win-Win.
#12. Start believing that you’re ready for the next step. – You are ready! Think about it. You have everything you need right now to take the next small, realistic step forward. So embrace the opportunities that come your way, and accept the challenges – they’re gifts that will help you to grow.
#13. Start entering new relationships for the right reasons. – Enter new relationships with dependable, honest people who reflect the person you are and the person you want to be. Choose friends you are proud to know, people you admire, who show you love and respect – people who reciprocate your kindness and commitment. And pay attention to what people do, because a person’s actions are much more important than their words or how others represent them.
#14. Start giving new people you meet a chance. – It sounds harsh, but you cannot keep every friend you’ve ever made. People and priorities change. As some relationships fade others will grow. Appreciate the possibility of new relationships as you naturally let go of old ones that no longer work. Trust your judgment. Embrace new relationships, knowing that you are entering into unfamiliar territory. Be ready to learn, be ready for a challenge, and be ready to meet someone that might just change your life forever.
#15. Start competing against an earlier version of yourself. – Be inspired by others, appreciate others, learn from others, but know that competing against them is a waste of time. You are in competition with one person and one person only – yourself. You are competing to be the best you can be. Aim to break your own personal records.
#16. Start cheering for other people’s victories. – Start noticing what you like about others and tell them. Having an appreciation for how amazing the people around you are leads to good places – productive, fulfilling, peaceful places. So be happy for those who are making progress. Cheer for their victories. Be thankful for their blessings, openly. What goes around comes around, and sooner or later the people you’re cheering for will start cheering for you.
#17. Start looking for the silver lining in tough situations. – When things are hard, and you feel down, take a few deep breaths and look for the silver lining – the small glimmers of hope. Remind yourself that you can and will grow stronger from these hard times. And remain conscious of your blessings and victories – all the things in your life that are right. Focus on what you have, not on what you haven’t.
#18. Start forgiving yourself and others. – We’ve all been hurt by our own decisions and by others. And while the pain of these experiences is normal, sometimes it lingers for too long. We relive the pain over and over and have a hard time letting go. Forgiveness is the remedy. It doesn’t mean you’re erasing the past, or forgetting what happened. It means you’re letting go of the resentment and pain, and instead choosing to learn from the incident and move on with your life.
#19. Start helping those around you. – Care about people. Guide them if you know a better way. The more you help others, the more they will want to help you. Love and kindness begets love and kindness. And so on and so forth.
#20. Start listening to your own inner voice. – If it helps, discuss your ideas with those closest to you, but give yourself enough room to follow your own intuition. Be true to yourself. Say what you need to say. Do what you know in your heart is right.
#21. Start being attentive to your stress level and take short breaks. – Slow down. Breathe. Give yourself permission to pause, regroup and move forward with clarity and purpose. When you’re at your busiest, a brief recess can rejuvenate your mind and increase your productivity. These short breaks will help you regain your sanity and reflect on your recent actions so you can be sure they’re in line with your goals.
#22. Start noticing the beauty of small moments. – Instead of waiting for the big things to happen – marriage, kids, big promotion, winning the lottery – find happiness in the small things that happen every day. Little things like having a quiet cup of coffee in the early morning, or the delicious taste and smell of a homemade meal, or the pleasure of sharing something you enjoy with someone else, or holding hands with your partner. Noticing these small pleasures on a daily basis makes a big difference in the quality of your life.
#23. Start accepting things when they are less than perfect. – Remember, ‘perfect’ is the enemy of ‘good.’ One of the biggest challenges for people who want to improve themselves and improve the world is learning to accept things as they are. Sometimes it’s better to accept and appreciate the world as it is, and people as they are, rather than to trying to make everything and everyone conform to an impossible ideal. No, you shouldn’t accept a life of mediocrity, but learn to love and value things when they are less than perfect.
#24. Start working toward your goals every single day. – Remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Whatever it is you dream about, start taking small, logical steps every day to make it happen. Get out there and DO something! The harder you work the luckier you will become. While many of us decide at some point during the course of our lives that we want to answer our calling, only an astute few of us actually work on it. By ‘working on it,’ I mean consistently devoting oneself to the end result. Read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
#25. Start being more open about how you feel. – If you’re hurting, give yourself the necessary space and time to hurt, but be open about it. Talk to those closest to you. Tell them the truth about how you feel. Let them listen. The simple act of getting things off your chest and into the open is your first step toward feeling good again.
#26. Start taking full accountability for your own life. – Own your choices and mistakes, and be willing to take the necessary steps to improve upon them. Either you take accountability for your life or someone else will. And when they do, you’ll become a slave to their ideas and dreams instead of a pioneer of your own. You are the only one who can directly control the outcome of your life. And no, it won’t always be easy. Every person has a stack of obstacles in front of them. But you must take accountability for your situation and overcome these obstacles. Choosing not to is choosing a lifetime of mere existence.
#27. Start actively nurturing your most important relationships. – Bring real, honest joy into your life and the lives of those you love by simply telling them how much they mean to you on a regular basis. You can’t be everything to everyone, but you can be everything to a few people. Decide who these people are in your life and treat them like royalty. Remember, you don’t need a certain number of friends, just a number of friends you can be certain of.
#28. Start concentrating on the things you can control. – You can’t change everything, but you can always change something. Wasting your time, talent and emotional energy on things that are beyond your control is a recipe for frustration, misery and stagnation. Invest your energy in the things you can control, and act on them now.
#29. Start focusing on the possibility of positive outcomes. – The mind must believe it CAN do something before it is capable of actually doing it. The way to overcome negative thoughts and destructive emotions is to develop opposing, positive emotions that are stronger and more powerful. Listen to your self-talk and replace negative thoughts with positive ones. Regardless of how a situation seems, focus on what you DO WANT to happen, and then take the next positive step forward. No, you can’t control everything that happens to you, but you can control how you react to things. Everyone’s life has positive and negative aspects – whether or not you’re happy and successful in the long run depends greatly on which aspects you focus on. Read The How of Happiness.
#30. Start noticing how wealthy you are right now. – Henry David Thoreau once said, “Wealth is the ability to fully experience life.” Even when times are tough, it’s always important to keep things in perspective. You didn’t go to sleep hungry last night. You didn’t go to sleep outside. You had a choice of what clothes to wear this morning. You hardly broke a sweat today. You didn’t spend a minute in fear. You have access to clean drinking water. You have access to medical care. You have access to the Internet. You can read. Some might say you are incredibly wealthy, so remember to be grateful for all the things you do have.
This is such a wonderful list. If we take little steps every day and practice these things, we can make great improvements in our lives. Share this post with your friends and loved ones.
“Laughter is part of the human survival kit.”- Comedian David Nathan
You’ve probably heard someone say “laughter is the best medicine.” Maybe you were feeling sad, disappointed, angry, or hurt, and a friend or family member tried to cheer you up by taking you to see a funny movie or telling a silly joke. Perhaps they managed to tickle you out of your funk so that you could once again appreciate the simple and beautiful aspects about everyday life and experience gratitude for all that you have. With an uncontrollable smile and laughter escaping your lips, you probably agreed that there’s definitely something to the adage about laughter.
The Patch Adams Prescription for Health
Hunter Campbell, M.D., the American physician whose life inspired the 1998 movie “Patch Adams,” took laughter therapy to a new level. In 1971, Dr. Campbell and several others opened a free hospital in a six-bedroom home, a pilot health care facility through which thousands of patients received unique, humor-infused care over the next twelve years. This hospital-home evolved into the Gesundheit Institute, a not for profit health care organization which currently offers volunteer programs like humanitarian clowning trips to hospitals, orphanages, refugee camps and prisons, as well as educational programs designed to help medical students develop compassionate connections with their patients. “We’re trying to make compassion and generosity the center core of what medicine is,” says Campbell about the organization.
Dr. Campbell’s ultimate goal, pending adequate financial support, is to open a free, full-scale hospital which offers allopathic and complimentary therapies, and inspires other medical facilities to move beyond traditional methodology. Intending to increase engagement with life for both patients and staff, Dr. Campbell also envisions incorporating performing arts, crafts, nature, agriculture, recreation, and social service into this integrative facility. For more information about the Gesundheit Institute, visit www.patchadams.org.
Laughter As Common Sense Medicine
“Hazardous to illness, humor leads to laughing, smiling, and good feelings” (Bakerman). It’s undeniable - both humor and laughter can make you feel good and take the edge off of seemingly difficult situations. Humor is a great communication tool to relieve tension between people and facilitate relationship-building. As a coping mechanism, humor helps people diffuse difficult emotions such as anger, fear, grief, and sadness. In hospital settings humor can help both patients and their families by giving everyone permission to laugh and relax.
Humor and/or laughter can also alleviate emotional stress, which enhances health by helping to prevent stress-related illness. Remember that the sustained release of stress, or “fight or flight,” hormones can contribute significantly to hypertension, nervous system disorders, and other health complications. Besides diminishing stress, humor and/or laughter can simply make us feel better and put us in good spirits.
Norman Cousins, an author, professor, and journalist, laughed his way out of the hospital many times. Cousins believed that the biochemistry of emotion was the key to combating illness. He used laughter (as well as mega-doses of Vitamin C) to fight his heart disease and help neutralize his incurable arthritic condition.
While laughter is well-accepted by the public as common-sense medicine, the exact physiological mechanisms through which humor / laughter enhance health are unknown to western medicine. At this point, we can see the big picture of laughter as good medicine, and understand aspects of the physiology of humor and laughter, but don’t yet fully understand how all the pieces of the picture fit together, and maybe it’s just better this way ( This is the eastern philosophy, and as well, the Kahunas of Hawaii are onto something - as they know this instinctively. To form any conclusions based on scientific evidence, though, more controlled research on the issue is necessary.
Humor vs. Laughter
We do know that it may not be humor, itself, which promotes health. Humor, is a cognitive stimulus which involves emotional, behavioral, psycho-physiological, and social aspects. Laughter, on the other hand, is a psycho-physiological response, a common expression of a humorous experience which results in a positive psychological shift. While humor alone can tickle your funny bone, the physical act of laughing has shown greater measurable physiological benefits in clinical studies, e.g. enhanced immune function.
Laughter, Nervous System Activity and Bioenergetic Psychotherapy
The case for “laughter being ‘healthier’ for you than humor” may be made by considering the positive effects laughter can have on the parasympathetic and sympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system. Laughter tends to reduce sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activity while engendering softening, expanding, and relaxing parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) activity. One possible explanation for increased PNS activity is that diaphragmatic movement may stimulate the nearby vagus nerve.
Not only does laughter help prevent SNS activity by assuaging emotional stress, but it also helps discharge aggressive, negative energy trapped as tension within the body as a result of past SNS over-activity. According to Alexander Lowen, the father of bioenergetic psychotherapy, uncontrolled laughter creates convulsive reactions which free up muscular tension within the body, and charge and mobilize the voice and breathing. Through release sessions, bioenergetic therapists try to facilitate anger, crying, and even laughing as a way of healing the body through the spontaneous release of energy.
In bioenergetic therapy circles, tension within the chest cavity is known as “armoring.” Release of this armoring, or previously locked in chronic defensive holding patterns, makes possible the redirection of freed energy and emotions toward healing the heart. Laughing can often lead to crying, the most healing modality for the cardiovascular system. Like laughing, crying induces endorphin release. Tear analysis also demonstrates that crying causes intricate hormonal reactions. Laughter and other spontaneous emotional releases such as crying also promote respiration, and thus bring much needed oxygen to the heart.
Laughter’s Immune and Cardiovascular System Benefits
Other than making you simply feel more relaxed, connected to others, or just better, humor and laughter can create positive immune and cardiovascular system effects. Vigorous laughter can result in physiological changes that are similar to those achieved through moderate exercise. Studies have shown that intense laughter can cause heart and respiratory rates to rise, as well as increased respiratory depth and oxygen consumption. Immediately following these changes are relaxed muscles and a corresponding decrease in respiratory rate, heart rate and blood pressure. That being said, a bout of uncontrollable laughter is no substitute for regular, moderate exercise.
Laughter also positively affects hormones. By increasing endorphins, hormones which assuage the sympathetic nervous system, laughter facilitates a state of peace in the body. It also raises DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) levels. Many researchers consider high levels of DHEA, a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands, a marker of health in the body. Studies indicate that DHEA, which declines with age, has anti-aging, anti-cancer, and anti-obesity effects and can enhance mental abilities.
Just What the Doctor Ordered
While the evidence in the above mentioned studies is not enough to prove that laughter will protect us against, or cure, disease, it does indicate that laughter has merit as a medicinal tool. Does it really matter, though, why laughter improves our states of well being as long as we’re still enjoying it? As a healing force, laughter exemplifies the reasoning behind the “why ask why?”. The emotional buoyancy and stress relief brought on by laughter simply improves our quality of life. Whether we master it or not, laughter, on its face, is good, common-sense medicine.
Some yoga studios are even starting to offer “laughter yoga” classes. Since research suggests that the physiological mechanism of laughter appears to better promote health than humor alone, let the laughter fly. Since laughter tends to be contagious, you could actually help improve someone else’s health.
- with thanks Heart MD Institute
Having just returned from a week in Germany, working on massage, learning, meditating, living at a completely different pace - unplugged, slow, I thought I would share some of my thoughts and reflections.
During and up toward the end of my stay, conversations among the students again and again returned to the following; "I WOULD like it so much to even manage to have some of this stress free time at home - but it is so difficult" . "Or:" I have to finally TRY TO LET GO and allow this feeling of relaxation to LAST. "Or," I MUST do more for me "I MUST!
Robert, our teacher, and Zen Master, in his wonderful German "English" says "Look out how you deal with you. Be careful that you do not set up again under pressure ". The challenge, is not that I must exert myself now to become a better person. I come home and want to change something, I think I might have had the characteristics that thought and behavior patterns with which I have been pressured me, now just trying to let go. All this effort, however, can in turn lead to new fatigue and feeling, not create it the way I liked it!"
The Hawaiians have a very different approach. There is in each of us a built in sense of our own needs! Instead of this feeling of having to constantly put oneself under pressure to perform for the outside; for family, for friends, for work, for others, allow yourself to be more vigilant. Pay more attention to and LISTEN more to your inside. When I do I notice that - my feelings are clear. It's constantly there, that feeling, and it tells me what I need at any given moment. Internal guidance, all you need to do is listen.
When I'm hungry, I eat something. I do not eat too much or too little. I don't overeat, for when I do, I don't feel good. Have you ever been out at a restaurant or in the company of others at a gathering and felt pressure to order or eat more than you feel that you want to? Why? When I'm thirsty, I drink a little. When I am cold, I put on a sweater. Its quite easy actually. And the same is true also in the needs for movement, for peace and for relaxation. I try, and as well you should to to organize my time so that I can follow my needs.
The same actually applies to this recent trip. I took a week away from work, from family, from the pressures and stresses of life. I was away from my cellphone, away from my email. One way to look at it would be "selfish". How can you spend that money for a plane ticket, or how can you go when there is so much work to do. But I realize that I will never have the extra money for the ticket and there will never be a time when there is no work to do, so I just go. And it is that simple. If I wait for outside conditions to be perfect, I will likely be waiting forever.
You are the center of the universe, your universe, ( As I am the center of mine), your events, your breathing, sentient experience, no matter where you are going. Your body, your awareness, each experience, whether you are at work, at a party or alone, unfolds uniquely for YOU. And only you
are responsible for your mood by listening in every moment to that guide inside. Instead of what we usually do which is to be constantly put under pressure to persuade others to think better of you.
It is not about being selfish, it is about taking care of yourself so that you can be a better person, to yourself and for others.
fe"The question for me as I return to "real life, is how easily the good feelings I have when away are erased. The plane lands, the messages on my phone come rolling in, the "while you were away" emergencies...the feeling of panic comes flooding back, and I find myself longing for that solitude again.
"Oh, now the stress starts again and the difficult thing is to keep the relaxation mood now, but I have to try! "Nonsense! If you try to keep something, then it slips out. Try not to even bother. Trying takes much effort. Instead simply allow yourself, to exercise your feeling during the daily working life.
The people around us have their reasons why they think, speak and act as they do so. And often also feel they are under pressure because they fail to feel inside. Then they can not help but try to pass the pressure on us. Therein lies the key for you then: if you realize this, then you should be clear. People may have expectations and wishes for you - but you need not take part. That is their universe unfolding - and intersecting with yours. Don't let them annoy you, don't take it personally. You come to decide what you accept and what you will not. Clarity. Soon, you will notice less and less "compromises", i.e. doing things that you do not really want to do. And THIS is a really great way to learn to relax in the here and now!
When is a NO really a YES ?
So a "NO", saying no to others, is really a "YES" - you are saying YES to yourself. You will see that others will respect this more and more. Its not about being selfish. If you are hungry and you reach for something to eat, is that selfish? You know what you need.....just listen and act accordingly.
This is not an invitation to be a boor - and a selfish lout. This is not saying that you must get everyone to do what you want. Its not about other people, its about becoming attuned to and nurturing your own needs. Tending your own garden. Inso doing you will become a better friend, lover, partner, parent, child, caregiver.
Would you like to be loved? To be accepted the way you are? Here is where you start, with you. because loving you means you accept and expect others to accept you as you are.
On the subject of "Try" -
"I have to change myself, I try to change, but it doesnt last, or its too hard." - again effort! And then you think, "I've tried it, yes, but I have just not made it" - so again you have found here a reason to give up. But honestly, we also do not need to try anything! And why is that?
Replace the word "try" with "practice".
I When I say I practice it, I allow for mistakes. So today, If I find myself back again, under pressure, then I become aware, forgive myself, and keep going. Of course, I want to follow my needs, but I do not always succeed, and that's ok....its a progression, and a balance. But more and more, I try to make sure that I take my own needs into consideration, in ways that really feel good tor me. Listen to that inner voice - make small changes. Practice. Balance.
Do you want to change?
Do you maybe want to become happy, wise, peaceful, or simply – a better person?
When you look deeply into your desire for change, you may find something uncomfortable at the bottom – a lack of self-love and self-acceptance.
In ancient teachings reaching right back to the time of the Buddha, we can find ways to cultivate loving-kindness toward ourselves and others.
First the good news:
Each one of us has the capacity for boundless love and kindness.
That’s why it can’t be given or acquired.
I's like water. Water can’t become any wetter, because being wet is not something apart from water.
In the same way, love and kindness are not attributes that we can add to our being. Our true self is loving and kind at its core - its just how you choose to use or not use it.
Zen Master John Tarrant says :
If you are busy thinking you should be kind, you might miss the reality that kindness is already present In you.
“Ok then,” – you might want to ask – “if that’s the case, why am I often grumpy and struggle to feel kindness in my heart?”
The answer is simple: our capacity for boundless love and kindness is buried deep within. So deep, that we sometimes can’t feel it at all. It’s as if the heart goes numb.
There is a way to uncover the natural radiance of your heart.
It won’t happen all at once, though.
Think of the process like a bud opening. At first it’s closed and you can’t even see what it will become. Then – little by little – the bud begins to unfurl and finally the flower appears in all its beauty.
You can’t hurry up the process. You can’t bend the petals of a bud outwards in order to make it flower sooner. Well, maybe you can, but the bud will be ruined.
Can YOU feel deeply – or is your heart numb? It can happen to all of us that our heart goes numb. At such times, even if we know that we love others, or that we love life – we can’t quite feel it. It’s like looking out over a landscape on a misty day. You can sense the outlines, but clarity is missing.
Children can show us what it’s like for the heart to be awake. Children have innocence. They lack self consciousness. They just feel. And express. On impulse.
Why does the heart go numb?
Numbness of the heart is a natural protection from pain. Every time we have a painful experience, we tend to grow a protective layer around our heart. The awful thing is that this protective layer doesn’t just shield us from pain, it numbs all emotions.
There is a way we try to rationalize our numb heart. Maybe we think, “I’m a realist, not a romantic”, or “I don’t like all that lovey-dovey stuff,” or, “I’d rather not get hurt.” Or we respond to others or ourselves in a sarcastic, cutting or snide way. These are all signs of a numb heart.
How can the heart awaken? There is a natural way of awakening the heart that we all know about. It’s falling in love. Ask any one who is freshly in love, and they will rave about how wonderful the person they love is. And how beautiful the world is. How bright the colors are, and how unique and wonderful every human being is.
But there is a problem … the euphoria doesn’t last.
Luckily, there is another way of awakening the heart. A way that lasts. And that is through loving-kindness practice.
What loving-kindness does is to ease away the protective layers around the heart. The practice of loving-kindness (or Metta) allows love to transform us.
What holds us back from the transformation of love is fear. The English psychoanalyst John McMurray spoke of people being either ‘fear-determined’ or ‘love-determined’:
There are two…emotional attitudes through which human life can be radically determined. They are love and fear. The fear-determined have no sun in themselves and go about putting out the sun in other people. Whereas the love-determined have life in them, abundant life. They are the people who are really alive, of whom it can be said that they possess eternal life as a well within them perpetually springing.
Is your life determined by love or by fear?
As John McMurray says, “the fear-determined … go about putting out the sun in other people.”
What does he mean by, “Putting out the sun in other people”?
It’s when we focus on other people’s faults and weaknesses. It’s when we put others down, when we use snide or sarcastic comments in order to put out their light.
If you are ruled by fear, you not only go about putting out the light of others, you also extinguish your own light.
Here are the thoughts that put out your own sun:
“No use trying!”, “I’m hopeless at that!”, “I’ll never learn!”, “This is too difficult!”
Each time you play these negative tapes, you extinguish your light, and negate your potential. And when you look at others and their perceived talent and success, you may feel envy – which is really a wish to extinguish the light of others.
How can we move from fear towards love?
The key is intimacy We move from fear towards love when we start to connect deeply with ourselves.
What does that mean?
It means being present to our experience of the moment. Whether we experience joy, or anguish, or restlessness, or fear, or anger – if we shine the soft light of awareness on our experience, we are no longer separate from ourselves.
What is the natural state of the heart?
Imagine that you release your heart from all the protective layers. What do you find at the core?
What you find is that the heart is joyful, radiant, and boundless. Our natural way of being is a state of intimate connection with all beings.
Maybe you feel worlds away from such an experience?
It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter because we are all on a path. All that counts is that everything we do moves us closer to our aspirations. On the spiritual path there is no fast or slow. There are no big or small steps. All you need to do is to practice loving-kindness – and little by little, your radiant heart will shine through.
How to uncover the radiant heart within.
You can uncover the radiant heart by practicing loving-kindness, or metta meditation. This meditation was taught by the Buddha as an antidote to fear. It’s the practice of cherishing the goodness in us, as well as in others. Thich Nhat Hanh translates the term loving-kindness or metta as “the intention and capacity to offer joy and happiness.”
The most important point here is that you need to start with yourself. You need to offer yourself loving-kindness. It’s the foundation of loving-kindness practice.
The magic of loving-kindness is that as you go deeper into the practice, you find that this ‘I’, this self – is without boundary.
The self includes mountains, rivers, wasps, hedgehogs, the warmth of the summer sun, the sharp winter wind, those close, and those far away. This ‘I’, this self, contains the whole universe.
As you breathe in – cherish yourself
As you breathe out – cherish all beings
You can either practice this during seated meditation, or you can pull out this meditation at odd moments during the day.
Here is a story that shows how to cherish something or someone completely. It’s from Maurice Sendak, the author the magical children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are.
Once a little boy sent me a charming card with a little drawing on it.
I loved it. I answer all my children’s letters — sometimes very hastily — but this one I lingered over. I sent him a card and I drew a picture of a Wild Thing on it. I wrote, “Dear Jim: I loved your card.”
Then I got a letter back from his mother and she said, “Jim loved your card so much he ate it.”
That to me was one of the highest compliments I’ve ever received. He didn’t care that it was an original Maurice Sendak drawing or anything. He saw it, he loved it, he ate it.”
- Maurice Sendak
See. Love. Eat.
This little boy knew how to cherish completely.
Loving-kindness practice is simple. But it can transform the way you experience life.
As your heart’s capacity for love and kindness grows, you’ll find a great fullness of being, discover a warm kinship with all beings, and reveal the radiant heart within.
So you have a choice. Do you want to be the person that puts the sun out in other people, or the person that puts a smile on their face?
with thanks to Mary Jacsch
I write about things that I myself need to be mindful of. ways in which I would like to improve. It is not from the perspective of preaching - but rather writing helps me work out what I myself need to do - we are all in this together.